OSU Agronomists Recommend Fertilize Now, Avoid Frozen Ground
Reblogged from the November 10, 2009 OSU CORN Newsletter
As you continue to harvest crops, plan on getting your fertilizer down this fall prior to frozen ground setting in or plan on waiting until spring after the thaw. Considering the number of acres that did not receive phosphorus or potassium last year with the prices we were facing, some of you may be in a situation where soil test indicates that you should make the application this year. If that describes your situation there is still time to make your applications this fall. The reason we would rather see applications made this fall is because we do not want to make applications on frozen ground. Applications made to fields with any appreciable slope can result in significant fertilizer losses. Not only do these losses represent an environmental concern, but they also represent an economic loss for your operation. Remember, if you soil test levels are still above our current critical levels (60 pounds per acre phosphorus, and 175-300 pounds of potassium, depending on soil CEC) then your risk of yield loss is small. Thus, you still do not have to make an application for next summer’s crops.
Another issue that producers are bring up is our current phosphorus and potassium recommendations and critical levels. Since at least some producers avoided applications of phosphorus and potassium last year and the crop season was as successful as it has been, growers question if our recommendations are too high. The Tri-State Fertilizer Recommendations are designed to ensure that phosphorus and potassium are not limiting production based upon soil test. A soil test value below the critical does not guarantee a yield loss, so those fields with low tests that performed well may have been those instances where enough phosphorus and potassium was made available (due to chance and weather) to allow for a relatively high yield. Additionally, since no fertilizer was supplemented, we do not know how much yield could have been made with an application (some yield may have been lost, but we have no way of measuring it without non-limiting control treatments replicated in the same field). Operating on low soil test levels is a risky venture, especially with potassium. We have documented yield losses of 35% and 50% on soils with below-critical phosphorus and potassium, respectively. You may be able to produce great yields on soils with low soil test levels, but the one time you do not will be a year you will remember.